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Archive for May, 2008

Paula Radcliffe has been focussing on very little this year apart from the Beijing Olympics, particularly since missing the London Marathon with a toe injury. But now it appears that another injury may rule out her chances in China too. On Wednesday an MRI scan revealed a stress fracture in her left femur.

Paula Radcliffe with Olympic TorchRadcliffe’s chances of running in Beijing seem unclear; at one time she says she is 90-100% sure she will be there, while commentators like BBC’s Mike Costello have described these chances as ‘slim’. A case of positive mental attitude on Radcliffe’s part perhaps, but it doesn’t sound likely that she will be able to train enough to be going to the Olympics with a realistic shot of a medal.

On a personal level this is very sad news, not only was Paula Radcliffe one of Team GB’s best gold medal prospects on the track, but after the drama of the Athens Games there can be few people in the UK who did not wish her success in Beijing. It may be too early to say, but it looks like Paula Radcliffe may be joining Haile Gabreselassie on the marathon sidelines.

The Games’ organisers may also feel some sympathy for Paula, for not only was she a star-prospect for their event, but she has also been a vocal supporter of the Games, with regard to political protests and pollution.

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The latest issue of the China Review came out this week, and was predictably packed with Olympic-centric articles. One quote particularly caught Bob’s eye and had to be included here:

“Being pragmatic, people inside and outside China should look past the temporary politics, and celebrate this event as a key moment in the encounter and dialogue between the rest of the world and China. And for the best dialogues, sometimes some uncomfortable things need to be said, and learned.”

It says a lot…

This was taken from a paper by Kelly Brown called Olympic Hurdles, first presented at the University of Greenwich Business School Olympic Legacy Conference in May.

Read/download this Quarter’s China Review here. It also includes articles about the PR dilemma for the CCP surrounding the Games and the measures that Beijingers are going to, to be good hosts.

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Justin Henin Olympic Gold Medalist

Some news that has been slightly overlooked in light of everything else in the last week: the Beijing Olympics will be missing one more gold medal holder since Justine Henin has announced her (shock) retirement.

Described as the best of her generation by former Champion Billie-Jean King, Henin is the reigning World no 1, and French & US Open Champion. For emotional reasons she has quit at the top of her game.

Her coach (and close friend) Carlos Rodriguez explains her decision:

“She used tennis as an outlet for her emotions and finally with her life now reconciled, she no longer has the fire that drove her to success.”

It’s interesting to note the reaction of fellow world no 1 Roger Federer who clearly struggles to contemplate losing the will to win:

“I couldn’t imagine deciding out of the blue to retire, especially if I was number one.”

Justin Henin Olympic Champion Backhand

Henin’s exquisite backhand won her many fans (including one right here) and was her main weapon in defeating formidablely larger and stronger opponents. Henin’s career has coincided with the age of the big-hitters: Davenport, Venus, Serina and Sharapova. But her strength of mind and determination was key to helping her through great ups and downs in personal and professional life. 2007 was the year that she conquered both aspects of her life.

Double grand slam winner, the first player in 10 years to win 10 titles in a season and the first player in history to win over US$5m in a season. She split from her husband of 4 years, and by Roland Garos (May) was reconciled with her father and siblings.

After a year like that life holds new challenges for Justine Henin. The tennis world’s loss is also the loss of the Beijing Olympic Games.

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A three minute silence was observed today at 2.28pm Beijing Time (6.28 GMT), one week after the terrible earthquake in Sichuan. This was accompanied by three minutes of noise by drivers of cars, ship and trains blasted their horns for three minutes of noise.

Here you can see a CCTV report which includes coverage of the three minutes from across China:

You may have noticed national flags at half-mast in this footage. This is one of the steps taken by the Chinese government to follow the wishes of China’s huge netizen population. CDT tells: “For the first time in PRC’s history, the government has lowered flags to half-mast in honor of civilians instead of national leaders”.

There has also been pressure from within China’s online communities to scale back the Olympic celebrations. It is likely that this democratic voice has been influential in prompting the decision to pause the Olympic torch relay for three days.

West Lake Hangzhou

Yesterday the Olympic torch passed by Hangzhou’s famous West Lake (left), and crowds of thousands showing their support for the earthquake victims.

Beside the Games’ slogans like “One World, One Dream”, they held up banners bearing “One Home, One Concern” and other self-created slogans in support of rescue efforts in Sichuan.”

From Hangzhou the torch is set to head to Shanghai, but it will not be relayed there until Wednesday.

In Shanghai support is being shown in other ways, including a candlelight vigil that has probably finished by the time of posting this.

Image thief also points out how the sombre sentiment in the country has articulated through the television, with non-news international channels suspended and little but quake news coverage on the domestic channels.

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The international news and the blogosphere this week has rightfully been dominated by coverage of the dreadful events in Sichuan, and the relief efforts. It’s difficult to concentrate on other news.

Oscar \'The Blade Runner\' Pistorius

However this Friday saw ground-breaking news that will reflect strongly on the Olympics, if not in Beijing then certainly in future events. After months of appeal Oscar Pistorius has been told by the Court of Arbitration for Sport that he is free to qualify for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing (full report here).

This ruling has over-turned the decision made by the IAAF that had barred him from competing against able-bodied athletes. The IAAF’s decision was based on the theory that Pistorius’ carbon fibre prosthetics give him an unfair advantage, as proven by research last November. The Court of Arbitration concluded that this research was flawed.

For a fuller discussion of the reasoning behind the ruling see the New York Times’ new Olympics blog.

What does this mean…?

Firstly it means that Oscar Pistorius can run in the 400m at the Beijing Olympic Games, if he reaches the qualifying time. Courtesy of the NYT again the qualifying time for the South African Olympic team is “45.95 seconds, or 45.55 if another South African qualifies. Pistorius’s personal best at 400 meters is 46.46”. This seems unlikely, but failing this Oscar could still run in the 4 x 400m relay.

Oscar is viewing the situation in the long term, and London 2012 could be the pinnacle for his ambitions: “Now I can definitely say the truth has come out. I have the opportunity once again to chase my dream of the Olympics if not 2008, in 2012.”

For other disabled athletes with Olympic dreams this will act as a spur of encouragement, though the Court were clear in pointing out that this was specific to this case and not to be applied across the board:

Ossur Cheetah Flex Sprint III

“The panel’s decision has absolutely no application to any other athlete, or other type of prosthetic limb.

Each case must be considered by the I.A.A.F. on its own merits. The ruling does not grant a blanket license to other single or double amputees to compete in I.A.A.F.-sanctioned events using Cheetah Flex-Foot Prosthetics or indeed any other type of prosthesis.”

It does seem unlikely, however, that another athlete using the Cheetah® Sprint Feet (manufactured by Ossur) would be refused entry to the Olympic Games without considerably more research. Whether or not it is correct, the situations will surely be reassessed when an athlete with prosthetics or other artificial aids is out-competing their able-bodied ‘un-assisted’ opponents.

For now, the Beijing Olympic Games look likely to benefit from the participation of another superb athlete and great character. The Blade Runner rides again.

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Beichuan was struck by panic today (Saturday) and hurriedly evacuated, as rumours spread through the quake-ravaged city that a river up-mountain had burst its banks. Fear of flood waters bearing down on the remains of the city were enough to prompt a complete evacuation, halting the rescue efforts in their tracks.

Beichuan Evacuation Following Earthquake

The BBC’s Paul Danahar has been reporting throughout the day of the stampede of thousands of people, whose nerves are shattered after a week of such upheaval. The fact that survivors still being dug out of the wreckage had to be left where they were, really adds a cruel twist to the terrible events of the week:

“Everybody just ran – rescuers, army relief teams, medical workers and locals – and people who were in the process of being rescued had to be left behind.”

As the death toll of the earthquake in Sichuan continues to rise, time is getting shorter and shorter for the tens of thousands still buried; several people have been rescued on Saturday after up to 117 hours buried. The official total has reached 28,881, as of Saturday. So when all rescue efforts were suspended today, the delay could have been fatal for some of those still trapped.

Rescuers and residents have been returning to Beichuan, as the realisation that the rumours were a false alarm has reached them. Bob sincerely hopes that this delay has not cost any more lives.

At this stage there does not appear to be any speculation about the validity of the rumour, or the handling of the situation. Across the press and blogosphere both within China and internationally there appears to be wide-spread support for the Chinese authorities’ search and rescue efforts.

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It seems rather futile blogging about other issues in light of the fact that thousands of people still left buried by the Earthquake in Sichuan. The death toll now exceeds 12,000 and is sure to increase. The Olympics seem relatively trivial.

The New York Times (via CDT) describes how many people in China have been incensed by jubilant celebrations of the Olympics Torch relay in Fujian Province. This post has subsequently been updated with news that “Chinese officials announced that the relay will be scaled back while remaining on schedule, a nod to the thousands of victims of the earthquake”.

It also anounces that “Donation boxes will also be set up at future stops of the torch”.

If you are interested in making a donation see the information below (via TIME and Shanghiist):

“For those who are looking to contribute to current aid efforts underway, you can now donate money to the Red Cross Society of China which has formed a disaster relief working group to be dispatched to the earthquake-stricken Wenchuan County in Sichuan.

They have also published an emergency relief hotline, along with bank account information to receive donations to assist their cause:

Account name: Red Cross Society of China
开户单位:中国红十字会总会

For those who want to donate in RMB: you can send money to the RMB account at the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China branch below:
人民币开户行: 中国工商银行 北京分行东四南支行
人民币账号: 0200001009014413252

For those who want to donate in foreign currency, you can send money to the foreign currency account at the CITIC Bank branch below:
外币开户行:中信银行酒仙桥支行
外币账号: 7112111482600000209

Hotline: (8610) 65139999
Online donations: Red Cross Society of China website: http://www.redcross.org.cn
Click the tab for online donations “

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